RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Top-ranked Rafael Nadal survived a scare at the Rio Open on Saturday, fighting off two match points before defeating fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10) to advance to the final.
Nadal will next face Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, who upset second-seeded David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4 on Rio's outdoor clay.
Nadal has been almost unbeatable on clay in his career, compiling a 297-21 record, the best in the Open era. His last loss on the surface was 10 months ago against Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters.
But this was not his night as he needed nearly three hours to defeat Andujar. Nadal is returning from a back injury he sustained in the final of the Australian Open four weeks ago — a match he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka.
"I felt empty the whole match," he said. "It was very humid, and this was the toughest day of all. I just didn't feel that great physically, and I'm not talking about the back. I just didn't feel that great.
"It was close because he played well, and I didn't play my best," Nadal added.
Nadal acknowledged his victory was lucky.
"The tiebreak was a lottery," he said. "But I played better in the tiebreak than the rest of the match."
Andujar had two match points in the third-set tiebreaker but couldn't convert either.
"I played one of the best matches of my life," he said. "Maybe the best. But I had a great one across (the net) from me."
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